Long before its eventual building on Wurtemburg in 1965, Hillel Lodge, also known as The Ottawa Jewish Home for the Aged, came about as the result of a grass-roots movement, founded by interested members of the Ottawa Jewish Community led and envisioned by Mrs. Abraham (Dora) Lithwick, and ably structured by J.C. (Jacie) Horwitz, Q.C. Legend has it that the idea arose during a chat over a cup of tea in the 1950's!
The first site for the proposed Ottawa Jewish Home for the Aged (later Hillel Lodge) was not Wurtemburg Street but Moffat's Farm, a property consisting of eight acres located on a side road running north and south between Highway 15 and 17 (near Britannia), about one-half mile outside city limits, providing a picturesque view of the Ottawa River. A dedication ceremony actually took place at that site on Sunday, June 30, 1957. When it was recognized that the site was not practical, the land was sold to the National Capital Commission at a profit and property was purchased on Wurtemburg Street.
When the Wurtemburg Street site was proposed for a Jewish Home for the Aged, Charlotte Whitton, Mayor at the time, stepped in to ensure that nothing stood in the way for this local project. In June 1964, a five-year $300,000 campaign was launched for the Wurtemburg site with Gilbert Greenberg leading the Campaign Committee. The turning of the first sod occurred on Sunday, October 4, 1964. The cornerstone laying ceremony was held on Sunday, June 25, 1965.
Initially, in the early 1960's, the building on Wurtemburg Street was intended to provide care for 29 strictly ambulatory residents. Architect Sidney Lithwick drew up plans for a two-storey structure, designed for future expansion. An Admissions Committee, chaired by Dr. Samuel Mirsky, was to screen all applicants to determine need. At the time, there were about 150 Jewish people over the age of 70 in the Ottawa Jewish community.
When Hillel Lodge opened its doors in 1965, no applicant was to be denied residency because of an inability to pay. Applicants were to be admitted based on need. The cost to maintain a person in the Home was ten dollars a day. The Lodge was under the direction of Percy Bernstein, M.S.W., a graduate social worker. Dr. David Malek was Chief of Medical Services. The Home was to be staffed by nurses, nurse's aides, and domestics. Mrs. Mildred Shiller oversaw the kitchen. Mrs. Helen Beiles was President of the Ladies Auxiliary and Mrs. Harry A. Roodman was the Chairman of Volunteer Services.
In 1972 Hillel Lodge was approved by the Province as an Ontario Extended Care Program, which provided operational funding for additional medical and physical assistance for 19 beds. Two more beds were added to the program in 1983. A third floor was added to the Home in 1973, with an additional 10 beds bringing the total at that time to 48 beds. The Abraham and Dora Lithwick Chapel was constructed in 1975 so that residents who were no longer able to travel to synagogue could have a Shul on site.
In 1983, the Lodge launched Operation Facelift, a very successful campaign, which raised $700,000. Its purpose was to significantly revamp both the Lodge's furnishings and equipment and, secondly, to ensure its future. In 1988, the Lodge received national accreditation, the smallest Home in the province to be accredited. Nevertheless, Sylvia Goldblatt, a woman of vision and tenacity, realized there was no future for the Lodge in the Wurtemburg building and undertook a feasibility study to prove it. The study determined that future expansion on the tiny Wurtemburg site was, in fact, not the solution.
In order for the new Lodge to become a reality, there was a need for more beds to make the project viable and credible to the government. The problem was that there was a government moratorium on beds in the 1980's. The struggle to acquire government approval for 100 long-term care beds was an uphill battle. After much effort, 17 more bed licences were acquired from the closed Bronson Home. Morris Kimmel, President at the time, convinced the Lodge to buy 35 more beds from a Home that was closing, thereby raising the total bed licences to 100. It was not until 1998 that the Ministry of Health gave the green light to the Lodge to build a new long-term care facility, providing a portion of the funding for the building and operational funding for 100 beds. This was a watershed moment in the history of the Lodge.
Hillel Lodge is grateful to be a funded member agency of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa. We are also a transfer payment agency of the Ontario Ministry of Long-Term Care (MOLTC); recognized as a Charitable Home; and operate under the Long-Term Care Homes Act, 2007 of Ontario. Our primary focus is on providing our residents with the highest possible standards for care.